XV – Ayin – Capricorn – Eye
Rebellion, Freedom, Ignorance, and Imprisonment
The Devil corresponds to the Hebrew letter Ayin, which means eye (and its original pictograph also bears this shape). The eye referred to here is the eye that allows one to see the light of God, and also to understand it and obey it. The letter Ayin, then, refers to one’s ability to see the divinity in everything and do what must be done. However, keep in mind that divinity and the “right” thing to do can be seen as being relative – and so there are many ways in which one can see the world (leading to the almost contradictory meanings of the Devil). The other eyes this card can represent are the eyes looking for the guidance of God – and sometimes they find it, and sometimes they don’t, and instead fall prey to the Devil. This letter can also represent the watchful eye of God, and the watchful eye of a shepherd over his flock. This eye looks downwards (towards the realm of the Devil), in an attempt to care for others – or in what they perceive as an attempt to care for others.
The Devil represents this eye that we all have, and what can happen should the eye fall upon the wrong object and mistaken discern the Devil as having divinity. When you fall into the Devil’s trap, you suddenly become chained to him, and imprisoned within hell. The Devil is for the most part a dark card, representing this imprisonment and sense of being tied down. He blinds you, causing you to live in ignorance, inhibiting the ability of your eye to discern the truth of things.
This card is a very Earthy card, as the Devil seduces you with the material, turning your eye away from the spiritual. This is the card of rejoicing in the things you have in the material world, and of the ability to manipulate the material world to your will, and to create things in it. The Devil is roughly analogous to the Greek God Pan, lord of the wilderness; the Devil is the Lord of Earth and wildness, and the patron of wanton creation; he creates for the sake of creating, seduces for the sake of seducing, and blinds you for the sake of blinding you. He lives in the present, and it is this constant focus on the present that blinds and seduces people into his chains.
Astrologically, the Devil is analogous to the Sun Sign of Capricorn, signifying order and accomplishment, as well as initiating actions (such as wanton creation). Specifically, the Devil corresponds to material order and material accomplishment; the completion of great Works and the will of the Emperor imposed on those below. The Devil – and Capricorn – can also be opportunistic, taking advantage of others for one’s own gain; this then is also a card of selfishness.
However, at the same time, this is a card of freedom. It is the second half of the heavenly dichotomy of heaven and hell; and just as the Devil and hell restrict you and chain you, so do the rules laid down by heaven. One can argue that the laws of heaven are good and will make you happier in the end, but the point still stands that there are laws and rules and regulations. The Devil represents freedom from all of these things, and also rebellion; Lucifer revolted against heaven, did he not? This card represents resisting authority, and something breaking the chains holding one down; in this way, the Devil can mean either being blinded to the truth and so in a prison of your own making, or breaking free of oppression to create a new future for yourself. It all depends on one’s perspective.
A way to synthesize all of this is the idea of a dynastic cycle: the old, oppressive dynasty spawns rebels, who rise up and topple the existing order – or secede from it – and then as they themselves grow in power, they become the oppressors, and eventually are toppled as well.
The spiraling horns of the Devil also symbolize an idea of universal energy that pervades all things – particularly the material. The horns mentioned above are seen on the Thoth card, which also prominently features the eye in the center of the Devil’s forehead, encouraging the reader to see with eyes unclouded by bias, and to see things – like Lucifer’s fall – in a new light. The Thoth devil closely resembles the Greek Pan, emphasizing the idea of a wanton creator, and a progenitor of sorts, having children just because he can and likes to. Below him are two groups of people who appear imprisoned by him on his whims, representing the idea of ignorance and chains. The Devil himself looks smug – but is he really the villain? This card asks you to think and decide for yourself.
The Rider-Waite art is much less ambiguous, as the Devil there is clearly malign, and has a male and a female imp chained below him. The Rider-Waite art strongly represents the idea of imprisonment and chains.
On the Tree of Life, the Devil lies between the Sefirot of Tiphareth (Balance) and Hod (Knowledge and Intellectual Weakness), representing the fall from balance that comes when one’s eye is blinded and fed knowledge that changes their perception of the world, leading to a weakness of the mind and a step taken off the beaten path – into the realm of the Devil.
In a reading, this card asks you to perhaps look at things from another perspective, and asks you to examine the roles that imprisonment and freedom might play in your life. Are you imprisoned? Have you thrown off the shackles of oppression lately? Have you been blinded by something, and remain ignorant of something? Have you been living in the present for a long time? Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden or twisted somehow; perhaps those things you’ve been creating with abandon actually will become useful soon, or your prison is weaker than it appears.